Broke-Ass Tag: wedding setup


organized wedding

Raise your hand if you’re a disorganized hot mess most of the time … yep, me too! Now where are my Type A friends who get anxiety when someone even touches something on your desk? There’s news for you, too. No matter where you fall on the messy-organized spectrum, putting together an orderly, executable system for wedding day set up is going to save you a lot of anxiety while you get all pretty (Is everything there? Are they doing it right?). It’s also a huge kindness to the people working their tails off so your day looks perfect.

Whether it’s a backyard gathering for 20 or a ballroom gala for 200, you probably have some feelings on how you want your wedding to look. When other people — whether they’re friends and family or hired event staff — are doing the set-up without proper guidance, you’re forcing them to make decisions for themselves. By setting up a detailed plan of action that your set-up crew can see beforehand, you take the guesswork out of it, giving everyone some peace of mind.

Don’t expect people to read your mind.

You may think everything is perfectly obvious, but that unlabeled box of personal photos and candlesticks was supposed to be divided among the guest tables, yet Aunt Jane assumed they were supposed to go on the shelf in the entryway. Your box of extra, in-case-of-emergency candles got mistaken for desired decor, so your cousin just kind of stuck them wherever he thought would look good. They’re both reasonable assumptions, but it’s not what you wanted.

So how do you deal?

Make diagrams and either print them out or email them to the people helping. The easiest way to do this is set up a mock-up somewhere in your home and take a picture. If there are items you’re renting and don’t have stashed around your home pre-wedding, grab a stand-in item and make a note that (for example) the water glass will actually be the 9-inch cylinder vase at the venue. This way, everyone knows what your plan is.

Separate items by table, not by decoration type.

This is a foolproof way of making sure things go where they need to go, especially if your tables will have different decor. Rather than putting all of the candle holders in one box and hoping for the best, put three candleholders in a box with the respective candles, the two photos of you and your partner at 3 years old, the #3 card, a holder for the card, and, if you have them with you, the linens and centerpiece vase. Label that box (visible from the outside) Table 3 and repeat as necessary. Separate other decorations like the buffet tables, desert table, sign-in table. Not only does this make it less confusing, it saves precious time and you’ll ensure all the things for each table are present and accounted for.

Assign people to take home you items at tear-down.

True Story: My husband of well over a year and I bought a plain white puzzle for our guestbook. I have not seen this since I lovingly admired a few of the messages at our wedding reception. I have no idea who took it home or what box it could be in. Learn from my mistake! Since it’s unlikely you’ll be doing the packing up yourself, have a list of what needs to go home with someone and ask specific people to be in charge of it. This way you know that Uncle Jim loaded all of the table decor into his Suburban; Mom has the gifts and cards; your best friend grabbed your bouquet and all the flowers … you get the picture. Of course, make sure that these people live relatively close so you can coordinate to pick things up after the wedding.

Make clear what was rented and needs to be returned.

Renting items can get pricey. The last thing you want it to get hit with a replacement fee after the wedding. Since the people helping tear down may not be the same people who helped you set up, make sure there’s a list of rental items so everyone there can easily identify what goes home with you and what gets returned. If you’ve rented from multiple businesses, separate the lists and make note of what will be picked up and what needs to be taken back personally.

Providing all of your helpers with a plan takes less work than you think. Simply knowing how you’re going to pack your boxes can be less stressful than cramming things in arbitrarily and trying to figure out what else will fit. Plus, in all honesty, people will love you for it. The less stress you put on people before your wedding, the happier they are once the whole shindig kicks off.

If that level of organization isn’t your game, find someone who color-coordinates their closet or alphabetizes their book shelf. Organized people usually love to help other people get organized, so it’s a win-win. Knowing where to find your precious memories in the days after your wedding will be well worth it!

Do you have any other organization tips? Let us know in the comments below!

  • 4/30

    VEGAS WEDDING 030Photo: Nick Radford

    So, my clients are getting married in six weeks, which means final payments, final guest counts, final meal selections, final, final lots of stuff are all due in the next two weeks. And right after all that, then it’s on to constructing the wedding day timeline. Which — don’t tell anybody — is one of my favorite parts of wedding planning. I’m a process person. My mom rolls her eyes and calls it a Virgo thing.

    Yesterday, I met with another couple who want a day-of coordinator for their wedding. I told them that day-of coordination doesn’t start on your wedding day. In order to make sure that everything is in place and everyone is in the right place, you really do need to start out about three weeks in advance. Why? Good question. It shouldn’t come as surprise to any of you that getting a hold of your vendors can take time, and getting a hold of all them multiple times to cross-coordinate, is going to take even more time. Give yourself the three weeks.

    The second couple is getting married in a church, and then having their reception at a hotel nearby. That’s two venues that need to be staged and then broken down. Your first call is ALWAYS to your venue(s), to find out how much setup time you have before your wedding/reception. Their wedding starts at 3 p.m., but they can’t get into the church until noon. Their reception starts at 5 .p.m, and since there’s another event in the room earlier, they can’t get in there until 3 p.m. Problem.

    The minimum amount of time you should have for setup is 2-3 hours. But if you’re self-coordinating (and we’re just going to assume that you are) and you’re in a similar situation as Couple 2, don’t panic.

    Your second question for your venue is to find out if it’s possible to store items there the night before your wedding, and if you can wait to pick things up the day after. Either will give you a little legroom time-wise. Confirm what specific times each has to happen.

    Your third question: Is there anything you need to alert your vendors to? Your venue(s) should know what issues come up regularly. Will there be enough electricity outlets for everyone?  Is your DJ going to need two speakers to cover the area? If you’re bringing in catering, is there a prep area for the food? How much manpower will be around to help your vendors, if necessary? Stuff like that. And have them walk you through the room layout again – Where will the DJ go? Where will the cake go? Gift table? Place card table? You get the point.

    Final question: Who should your vendors ask for when they arrive? Don’t assume it’s going to be the person you’ve been talking to all along. You can do all of this over the phone, of course, but if you can, have this conversation in person.

    Once you have all the information, you’re ready to talk to your vendors. All of your vendors. Don’t leave out the crew that’s doing your makeup, don’t leave out your photographer because you figure they’re just going to float along with you for the day, do not leave out the bakery. All of them. Confirm a general timeline if you’ve already established one with them. Tell them when your venue(s) will be available. Ask each of them if that will be enough time, and if not, what will they need in order to get the job done?  Then ask what else they will need when they arrive. They, too, will tell you what issues usually come up, that they can’t necessarily handle on their own, “Can you make sure … ?”

    Call your food folks first, then rentals, then your florist. These are the vendors that usually need the most time. At the end of each call, re-confirm what time they will be arriving. Then once you get through the first round of calls, you’re probably going to have to call back your venue(s) with any new questions or concerns that have come up. The Chivari chair company wants to pick up the next day, your videographer needs to charge his equipment, etc. Once again, re-confirm with the venue who is showing up when, and tell them that you will be emailing them a final timeline a week before the wedding.

    Find out the need-to-knows in order to schedule your wedding events. How long will it take to serve your guests? Will your venue/caterer continue serving during toasts and dances? Ask your DJ how long the first dance, parents dances, cake cutting, etc., are going to take, so you can incorporate that into your timeline as well.

    Think about the stuff you’re going to have to do yourself, or have friends and family do for you — the “little” things like arranging place cards, table numbers and favors. These three things should take about 1 – 1.5 hours for two people to do, total, if you have 100 guests. Sounds long, but it takes a while to get a system down, things gets misplaced. Whatever details need doing, more people means less time to do them. Help your helpers out and alphabetize where you can.

    Google Docs is great for keeping track. I used to email different versions around to everyone, but now I just put it online, save it as I build it, and then send an email inviting others to look at it, and comment or edit as needed. Google also has wedding specific templates, too (and they’re free) so use them. Put everything you can in your timeline. Put the link to the Google Doc for the timeline at the top of the page. Put the name and phone number of the main contact person, whether it’s you (hopefully not) or a friend or family member, right under it. Put the contact name and phone number of each vendor, including your venue(s) next to their arrival/open time.

    Once you feel it’s all finalized, let all your vendors know and ask them to review it. Do not be surprised if one of them points out something that means you’re going to have to make more changes. I’m just warning you.

    Print out and bring copies for everyone who is going to be at the rehearsal. At the end of the rehearsal, briefly go over it, so that everyone knows where they need to be and when, and how the day is going to flow. That way no one can say that they didn’t know what was going on. It’s a lot of paper, I know. Encourage everyone to recycle.

    Yes. Now you know why they pay me the big bucks. But you also now know how it works. Any questions?

    See you at the end of the aisle,